Noted television journalist Rajdeep Sardesai on Friday broke his silence over the scuffle he had gotten into in at Madison Square Garden
with supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In a note on his personal website, Sardesai wrote: “It was an unfortunate response and one which I deeply regret. Whatever the provocation, there is no excuse for me to have got into a scuffle.
“Over 26 years of journalism, I have endured a variety of situations but have always maintained my dignity and composure. No amount of provocation justifies a physical response.”
Sardesai had come in for widespread criticism for physically assaulting a Modi supporter who had been heckling him – soon, the incident acquired a Rashomon-like quality as different versions of both what exactly transpired and in what order popped up over the Internet, especially on Youtube.com.
Sides were quickly taken, with hashtags #istandwithRajdeep and #Rajdeepgotslapped trending on Twitter within hours.
Here’s the full text of Sardesai’s note of regret:
Over the last week, several versions have appeared on an unfortunate incident at Madison Square Garden
when Prime Minister was addressing the Indian American community.
Through this period, I have chosen to remain mainly silent because I didn't want to add to the noise that has prevented any rational explanation.
However, I do believe it is important to put events of the day in context. I along with my camera person was outside Madison Square garden
about three hours before the prime minister was to arrive. Our aim was to capture the mood, which was joyous and excited.We were able to reflect much of this in our coverage.
I probably took more selfies on a single day than ever before with the crowd. Sadly, a small group of people began to heckle and abuse us. For a long while, I smiled and shrugged this off and even tried to strike up a conversation to ease the tension.
But after a while, the heckling reached a stage where we had to stop the broadcast as the crowd began to push and jostle. I was abused in terribly foul terms, my family was called names and I was kicked in the shins when my back was turned. The pushing and jostling continued even as I tried not to engage. I had gone to the event with hopes of goodwill instead the volley of name calling was unrelenting and shocking to me.My camera person and other witnesses would bear testimony to this.
A few moments later, I saw someone heckle me again and I lost my patience .I uttered an expletive and lunged at the person. It was an unfortunate response and one which I deeply regret. Whatever the provocation, there is no excuse for me to have got into a scuffle.
Over 26 years of journalism, I have endured a variety of situations but have always maintained my dignity and composure. No amount of provocation justifies a physical response.
I do, however, believe that surrounding, heckling and hurling vicious personalized abuse while a journalist is doing a professional job is also unacceptable. We journalists have a challenging job at the best of times and only ask to be allowed to perform our duties unhindered without intimidation.
The freedom of the press is an integral part of our democracy and should be respected by all.